The Corrections

Nora Krug in the New York Times Book Review:

Krug184In at least one respect, Seth Mnookin’s “Hard News” mirrors its subject – this newspaper – with almost dead-on accuracy: its paperback edition, published last month, includes a carefully constructed list of corrections. Many errors in the three-page mea culpa may seem mundane or inconsequential (“Danny Meyer is a celebrity restaurateur, not a celebrity chef”), but its very existence is noteworthy.

Corrections in books are rare. But the conclusion this implies – that books rarely contain errors – is itself incorrect. Books are not usually corrected because they can’t be, not because they shouldn’t be. As Mnookin’s book shows, putting a statement between hard (or soft) covers does not make it more reliable than one published in a newspaper.

“The printed book page has always enjoyed a mystique that newsprint hasn’t,” said Ron Chernow, the National Book Award-winning author of “The House of Morgan” and “Alexander Hamilton.” “People tend to accept more uncritically what they read in a book than what they read in a magazine or newspaper.” Yet authors themselves, especially the most careful ones, know this mystique is undeserved. Uncorrected errors – some big, some small – are far more common than most publishers admit.

More here.